Thursday, September 19, 2013

skillet loaded cornbread

Oh, September. We are in that weird transitional period from summer to fall. Handling the fluctuation between the 60's and 80's in a weeks time is so tricky!

This Skillet Loaded Cornbread recipe is perfect for the transition though. It is great with summer fried chicken (which is what we paired it with for dinner one night awhile ago) and I can only imagine it will be divine with a bowl of fall chili.

I found this recipe from The V Spot and pretty much copied the recipe. She did hers over the campfire (so fun!), and I did mine in our cast iron skillet in the oven. It worked just the same! I made a few tweaks to ingredient amounts, but otherwise it was so good! I've had other varieties of cornbread (like jalapeno) but never thought of something like this. The additional ingredients really made the cornbread super flavorful.

Here's the recipe:

Skillet Loaded Cornbread

What You Need:
2 boxes of Jiffy Cornbread Mix (prepare according to package directions--mine included an egg and milk)
3 ears of corn, cooked and cut off the cob
1/2 pound of bacon, fried and chopped
1 small can of diced green chilies
1 cup of diced tomatoes
1/2 cup of shredded cheddar cheese
salt and pepper, to taste

Shuck corn, cook in boiling water, and cut off the cob.

While corn is cooking, fry up bacon. Drain on paper towels and chop into small pieces.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Prepare the cornbread mix according to the package (in this case the Jiffy mix needed milk and an egg). Then add in the corn, bacon, green chilies, tomatoes, and salt and pepper. Pour into your buttered skillet and top with shredded cheddar cheese.

Cover with foil before cooking in the oven. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until edges begin to brown and a knife can be inserted in the center and come out clean.

I did really enjoy this. I love good ole' regular cornbread, but I did like this fun variation. The green chilies added a nice spice. I might up the ingredient amounts of the tomatoes and bacon, as their flavor got a little subdued due to the chilies. This kept well in the fridge for a few days afterwards, so don't feel rushed in enjoying it. 

I can't wait to bring this summer recipe into the fall! {Seriously, chili and cornbread=love!}

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

project 365: august/september

I challenged myself to take a photo a day as part of my "25 Things to Do While I'm 25" list. I love photos and memories and moments, but often forget to stop and take the time to snap a photo. 

I miraculously have kept up with a photo a day this past month since my 25th birthday. Some days I have a hard time remembering or am not sure what to photograph, but I always came up with something. It was fun to see the beauty or uniqueness in something that I wouldn't otherwise normally appreciate. 

Evidently my trend in photographs are food and my new puppy Sophie, who always has me laughing and full of love. 

Check out my past month below. This is a fun way to document life! (Click each photo to enlarge it.)

If you were taking a photo a day for a year, what would you photograph? Any suggestions or requests? I might need them!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

skillet lasagna

I love food. I love comfort food. I love easy-to-make comfort food.

This skillet lasagna recipe is so easy, so comforting, and so good that I'm not sure why I didn't think of it sooner. We traditionally don't make full pans of lasagna (there are only two people in our household afterall!) but instead make lasagna roll-ups. While I do love those, I wanted something even easier last night. With 95+ degree weather, I wanted a home-cooked meal without the time or heat. Transforming lasagna into a skillet-friendly and almost casserole-like meal was the perfect solution. I have a feeling I will be making this version more often!

Skillet Lasagna

What You Need
8 oz. lasagna noodles (ended up being half a box worth)
olive oil, for the skillet
1/2 yellow onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 green pepper, diced
1/2 lb. ground beef
3/4 jar of store-bought arrabiata sauce (It had a spicy zing to it, which I liked. You could certainly go with marinara or something similar though!)
1/4 jar of store-bought alfredo sauce
1/2 cup of shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 small container cottage cheese (we do not usually do ricotta, so this is our alternative)
salt, pepper, and basil

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F.

Boil salted water in a pot for your lasagna noodles. Before adding the noodles to the boiling water, break noodles into halves or thirds. Cook noodles according to package.

While your noodles begin to cook, take your oven-safe skillet (ours happened to be our monstrous cast iron skillet) and drizzle in olive oil over medium-low heat. Add in your diced onion and let it sweat for a few minutes. Then add in your minced garlic and let those flavors blend with the onion. Add in your green pepper and let all three ingredient cook down and become more flavorful. 

<I chopped the onion and tossed it in. While it started to do its thing, I'd prep the next ingredient and add it in. While that was doing its thing, I'd prep the next ingredient. This worked well in terms of multi-tasking and giving each of the ingredients enough time to cook.>

When the lasagna noodles are done, remove from heat and drain. Set aside for a few minutes.

Salt and pepper your ground beef and then add it to your skillet, breaking it up with a spatula for 5-6 minutes until browned. After your ground beef is browned, drain any excess fat you might have. Begin to add in your sauce to the skillet. I liked the idea of mixing two sauces, so that's what I did. I'd add some spoonfuls of the arrabiata sauce and then a spoonful of the alfredo and then stir. The sauce amount is an approximation and depends on how you like it, so add enough sauce till you think it looks good to you.

Begin adding in your noodles to the skillet and begin combining all your ingredients. It should start to look like a slightly messy lasagna dish. If it looks too dry, add in more sauce.

Once combined, add shredded mozzarella to cover the top of the dish. Plop spoonfuls of cottage cheese gracefully on top. Sprinkle with additional salt, pepper, and basil, to taste.

Pop in the 400 degree F oven for 10 minutes, or until cheese is melted and bubbly.

Pulling this out of the oven and being able to scoop it directly into a bowl brought me no greater joy on a Tuesday night. It was lasagna without being lasagna, you know? Jacob added some fresh spinach leaves to his afterwards for some extra greens. We served this up with Caesar salads and it was just the kind of comfort I was looking for. 

If you end up trying this, let me know what you think! Have you transformed a time-consuming dish into something more simple with the same intended results? Let me know, as I'm always looking for new recipes and shortcuts!

Friday, September 6, 2013

little miss sophie {the story of our french bulldog}

Meet Sophie. Newest love of my life. 

Back in October or November of last year, Jacob and I started talking about wanting a dog. In our current apartment we couldn't have one, but we knew we probably would try to move when our lease was up. We began looking at breeds and eventually stumbled upon the French Bulldog. We did a lot of research -- we wanted to be as educated as possible. The breed seemed perfect for our home, our lifestyle, and city living. The obsession with Frenchies began.

Little miss Sophie (1 week old) is the all-white girl just hanging out.

Settling on the idea of a Frenchie was easy. Seeking out the best place to get one took more work. I planned and researched like it was my job. (It should probably in fact be my job -- I love it and am quite good.) We went the breeder route and I evaluated and judged a lot of people, their websites, and their dogs. I googled many nights on the couch -- French Bulldogs, French Bulldog breeders, French Bulldogs Chicago, etc. I eventually found a great breeder in Minnesota who had excellent reviews, gave great advice, and showed lots of photos that only elevated the feeling of being excited. We reached out to her and initiated contact. Jacob and I talked. A lot. We felt like the breeder, the situation, and the decision was the right one. We put a deposit down on an upcoming litter.

Sophie at 1 month old.

The litter of puppies we put a deposit down on didn't ever come. The mom didn't carry them through. This was in May. Another litter was to be born towards the end of June, so we decided to carry our deposit over to that litter. I figured that if something didn't go well with that litter, it was a sign that we weren't meant to get a Frenchie just yet. The breeder was great and kept in contact with us well, which was nice as a worrying and hopeful "mom-to-be."

A litter of 6 were born June 30. Four girls and two boys. We were ecstatic. We were number 3 on the list in terms of putting down deposits, which means we would have the third pick.

After receiving a picture of the baby puppies at a week old, we were excited to try to see their colorations and started dreaming which one would be ours. At around a month old, we received three pictures of every puppy. The breeder asked everyone to put in their requests and she would go in the order of those who put down deposits. Jacob and I studied the photos of the puppies for much longer than I'd like to admit. They were all so precious! We picked our top three and emailed them to the breeder. We at least knew one of the three we picked would be ours. The next day we found out our number 1 pick, Sophie, was definitely ours.

Knowing which dog was ours made everything real. She was ours. I started making a list of what we needed to buy. We slowly bought training pads, beds, and toys. I researched good and poor ingredients in dog food and picked what I thought would be "best" for her. We set up her crate a month early. We couldn't help it -- we were going to be in charge and responsible of another little creature.

About two weeks before Sophie's arrival, we picked her name. We had an ongoing list of names since we wanted a dog and finally picked what we thought was appropriate. She definitely ended up being a Sophie!

About a week before Sophie's arrival, Jacob worked on coordinating with the breeder on how we would get Sophie. The breeder was about 10 hours from Chicago. We could choose to pay a fee (seems expensive but worth it) to have her flown to Chicago O'Hare or we could rent a car ourselves and drive to meet the breeders/dogs at the Minneapolis airport. After evaluating the cost versus how the day would play out, I pushed us to have her flown. This was a brilliant decision. We were allowed to have the day to prepare and be excited instead of stressed about driving with a new puppy.

On August 30 in the afternoon our dearest friend Chelsea drove us to Chicago O'Hare. We looked up where to pick up animals and we headed to United's Air Cargo Facility. We arrived around the time she landed but had to wait for her arrival, which was about 25 minutes. 

When they pushed her crate over, Jacob and I walked over to greet our newest little one. I peeked down at her level and although she went through a lot to get there, she looks so happy and cute. The ride was fairly good, although she was uncertain about a lot!

Sophie arrived home and we began introducing her to small areas at a time. She learned (and is still learning) about collars, leashes, and crates. 

She is already prepared for the great number of photos she will be having taken in her lifetime.

First family photo, although Sophie was a little excited about laptime on the couch.

We have surpassed the one week mark of her arrival. What have I discovered about this little girl? Puppies sleep far more than you expect they will. They also have to go to the bathroom far more than you expect they will. She is happy. She learns quickly. (When we are outside our apartment and she is done going outside, we tell her to "go home" and she runs to the door ledge and sits to wait to be let in.) She sleeps and plays in the oddest of ways. She loves when it is mealtime. She is investigative and curious about everything and everyone. 

What have I learned about me? I am adapting to being "messy"--aka toys everywhere. I don't mind waking up in the middle of the night to let her out. My routine and daily life have been shifted. I love her and feel such strong emotion knowing that I am helping create her entertaining, comfortable, and safe little life.

I cannot wait to watch her grow and to experience the city streets together. She doesn't quite know how to walk with a leash yet, but I'm sure she will soon. Until then, she will just sit next to the sidewalk watching all those who pass by. They usually can't resist her charm. (Neither can I!) She has her photo taken nearly every day and constant verbal and physical love from people on the street. 

This little snapshot was taken by someone on the street and texted to me.  

Little Miss Sophie - thank you for being the one to enter our lives and joining our family. It could've been someone else but I am so very thankful it is not. We are certainly blessed to have you and cannot wait to watch your antics and feel your doggy love. 

*This is the first thing to cross off my 25 Things to Do While I'm 25 list and I am so glad it is! What a way to kick off my year.